In Great Village, Nova Scotia, anticipated lower blueberry prices are straining growers' bottom line. Blueberries have long been touted for their many health benefits, but the industry itself is in need of a booster shot, says a local crop grower.
“I think the blueberry industry’s got some headaches,” said Curtis Millen, of Millen Farms in Great Village. “I think the industry’s learned to grow a lot of blueberries per acre and the markets aren’t ready for it.”
Area producers are anticipating compensation of 30 cents per lb. for this year’s harvests, compared to 50 cents per lb. last year.
Millen said that could have negative repercussions on some operations.
“I think it is going to be very, very difficult,” he said. “I know for our own farm it’s going to be very difficult.”
Some maintain that Oxford Frozen Foods – which owns and farms a massive blueberry operation in Cumberland County – is part of the problem, because of the company’s ability to influence the price paid to blueberry producers. However, Millen said the issue is more widespread.
“I don’t know how you point fingers. I think all serious growers are growing more blueberries than we used to,” he said. This, he attributes to improved technology and fungicides that have helped improve the ability to keep the plants cleaner, ultimately resulting in greater yields.
“I think the volume that we’ve been able to grow the last three years has exceeded the volume we were organized or prepared to sell,” Millen said.
But, Millen said that, with a move into China down the road, there could be hope.
“But there’s certainly time going to be needed here before this industry is going to be good again.
“I think long term, we’re all going to have to be prepared for less money per pound than we used to get years ago.”